Beyond the knitting instructions: How do you customize a dishcloth knitting pattern?

I’m a fan of hand knit dishcloths. Every time I use one, I’m amazed at how long they last.  And how much better they are at scrubbing than manufactured dishcloths.

Although they can be fancy with embossed-looking images, they don’t have to be.  A knitted dishcloth pattern can be as simple as garter stitch. I just finished knitting one in about three hours.

Grandma's Favorite Knitted Dishcloth

Grandma's Favorite Knitted Dishcloth

I used a dishcloth pattern that’s been around for years. It’s called Grandma’s or Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth.

Its name suits. It’s a quick and easy knit. All you need to know is how to: cast on, knit, yarn over, decrease, and cast off.  That’s it.

It can be customized if you get tired of the basic knitting pattern, as explained later in this post.

Grandma’s Favorite Dishcloth

Materials: Approximately 1 ounce of cotton worsted weight yarn and 1 pair of knitting needles in appropriate size.

So what’s an appropriate needle size? Whatever size you want to make the knitting as tight or as loose as you want. I knit loosely, and usually use size 5 or 6 needles. Many knitters use size 8.

Instructions:

Row 1: Cast on 4 stitches.

Row 2: Knit 2 stitches, yarn over, knit to end of row.  Turn.

Repeat Row 2 until you have 44 stitches on your needle.

Next Row (Decrease Row): Knit 1 stitch, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to end of row. Turn.

Repeat this row until you have 4 stitches left. Cast off.  Break yarn, and pull it through last stitch to knot. Weave in yarn ends.

Knitter’s Tip: If the dishcloth doesn’t look quite square, try gently pulling it into shape. It’s not unusual for the first and second halves to look different when the dishcloth first comes off the needles.

So what are some easy variations?

  • Crocheting a Hanging Loop
    You can add a look by not breaking yarn when you get to the last stitch. Using a crochet hook, chain 8, attaching the chain to the last stitch or corner or next to the last stitch. Break yarn and weave in ends as above.
  • Adding a Slipped Stitch Edging
    You can make a lovely slipped stitch edging by slipping the first stitch of each row as if to purl.  My video gives you the slipped stitch edging knitting instructions.
  • Knitting in Reverse Garter Stitch
    If you want practice purling or just like to purl more than knit, you can knit the entire dishcloth in reverse garter stitch instead of garter stitch.

    To knit Grandma’s Favorite Dishcloth, the basic instructions become:
    Row 1: Cast on 4 stitches.
    Row 2: Purl 2 stitches, yarn over, purl to end of row.  Turn.
    Repeat Row 2 until you have 44 stitches on your needle.
    Next Row (Decrease Row): Purl 1 stitch, purl 2 together, yarn over, purl 2 together, purl to end of row. Turn.
    Repeat this row until you have 4 stitches left. Cast off.  Break yarn, and pull it through last stitch to knot. Weave in yarn ends.
    This post gives you more detailed reverse garter knitting instructions.

  • Changing the size
    Want a larger or smaller dishcloth? Then increase to 46 or 42—or whatever sizes you want—before decreasing.
    You can even make square dishtowel by enlarging the pattern. You may however need more than one ball of yarn.
    Knitters tip: Hand knit dishtowels seem to absorb water better than store-bought ones.
  • Using your imagination to customize—
    If you want to knit in colors, you can knit stripes. You may either find you have a lot of ends to weave in, or if you carry the yarn from row to row you may want to crochet a border of single crochet or knit an I-cord border to cover the yarn loops.
    If you change colors after either 2 or 4 rows the yarn carried will be short lengths. You can also make wider stripes of more rows, breaking the yarn between stripes.

So now you have the basic instructions and five easy variations.

Another variation of the garter stitch is my Garter Ripple Kitchen Set, based on an easy lace knitting stitch called “Feather and Fan.”

Garter ripple kitchen set

Garter ripple kitchen set

It’s a great way to brighten up your kitchen or to practice lace knitting on a small project.  Buy now!

Keep knitting to your heart’s delight — or someone else’s,

Ina

The Knitting Yarn

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5 thoughts on “Beyond the knitting instructions: How do you customize a dishcloth knitting pattern?

  1. I just wanted to say I love your tagline, “In the rhythm of the needles, there is music for the soul…” I read it and immediately was transported back in time of my memory to sitting beside my mother while she would knit in the evenings and chat about the day. Thank you for the memory!

    Louise

  2. has anyone ever used Grandmas’ favorite dishcloth pattern to make a baby blanket? If so, how many stitches did you cast on???? thanks!

  3. Hi Marianne,

    You can use Grandma’s Favorite Dishcloth pattern 2 ways to make a baby blanket. One would be to make individual diagonal blocks and sew them together. The other way is to make one piece.

    Because this pattern is knit on the diagonal, in both cases you cast on 4 stitches. The difference is in how long many rows you have until you start decreasing. You continue increasing until you have the first half the size you want, then begin the decreases.

    There is a square baby blanket in garter stitch in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop. To purchase the book click here right now.

  4. IS HTERE ANY LEFTHANDED KNITTER OUT THERE THAT HAS MADE A KNITTED DISHCLOTH OR TOWEL WITH A DESIGN ON IT LIKE A HORSE, TRAIN, HOTDOG ETC AS SOMEONE SAID WHEN YOU ARE LEFTHANDED YOU START FROM THE LAST ROW AND WORK YOUR WAY BACK LIKE ROW 62 YA WOULD START ANF GO TILL ROW 1? AS WANT TO MAKE THESE DISHCLOTHS BUT DONT WANT TO MESS THEM UP AND DONT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU COULDNT START WITH RO1 1 FIRST BUT SOMEONE SAID LEFTIE PEOPLE START FROM LAT ROW MEANING BOTTOM OF DIRECTIONS AND WORKING UP TILL ROW 1 PLEASE EMAIL ME THANKS PATTY

  5. Hi Patty,

    When you’re knitting left-handed (moving the stitches from your right hand needle to the left), you might want to reverse the knitting graph horizontally, not vertically. You still start with row 1. If you follow the chart as written you may end up with a mirror image of what you’re knitting. On a dishcloth with a horse that is looking to the right, if you follow the directions as written, he could end up looking to the left. Most of the time it’s not a big deal. I’m right-handed and have many dishcloths that were “mistakes.” They work perfectly fine, and I think of them as practice.

    Where knitters get frustrated is when they are knitting a cardigan sweater for example, and want the buttonholes on one side or the other. Or if you’re knitting a complex stitch like cables, they would also be a mirror image of the ones knit by a right-handed knitter.

    If you were knitting something like a ball in a dishcloth, because the ball is symmetric right to left, no one would ever know it’s the mirror image. This DVD is made for left-handed knitters by a left-handed knitter. Just click here now.

    Thanks for writing and I’ll send you an answer by email too.

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